Meet Joleen and Monika of Oma + Jo
Meet Joleen and Monika, a mother-daughter duo! This sweet little company is located in Anchorage Alaska, and they make the coolest stuff for kids inspired by the outdoors! My top faves are their Demin Hat and the Adventure Belt but honestly everything they have is awesome! They just released their fall line so check it out!
Owners of Oma + JO
Tell us a Little about yourself, your family and your business.
We are oma+jo, a baby and toddler apparel shop out of Anchorage, AK sold exclusively on our website: www.omaandjo.com . All of our designs are hand sewn by the mother and daughter team, Monika and Joleen. The oma in oma+jo is my mother, Monika. Oma means grandma in German, and Monika is the Oma (grandmother) to my sister's little girl. She has been an artist in Alaska for many years. She started making and selling trapper hats 28 years ago at the local craft shows as a source of income while being a stay at home mom. Soon after she added Kuspuk's (traditional Alaskan parkas) to her line and continued this for about 12 years before transitioning into designing and wholesaling a line of jewelry. She "retired" for two short years...and then there was oma+jo. The jo in oma+jo is me, Joleen. I am a scientist and an artist. Aside from the designing, I do for oma+jo, I have had the pleasure of designing and sewing wedding dresses for a few close friends and my sister. As for being a scientist - I went to school for biology and got my Master's degree last December. My mom and I are lucky enough to be best friends - something I have found is not the norm between mother and daughter. We are having so much fun designing together and are thrilled we can share our creativity through oma+jo. Our goal for the Autumn/Winter 2016 season is to transition our brand from boutique to adventure gear. We will still strive to incorporate whimsical prints and keep things super stylish but shift our focus to functionality. We’d like to introduce thermal layers and create a collection of clothes that are made to play rough and go out and adventure in!
How did you come up with your company name and why?
Although the 'oma' in oma+jo is my mother, it means so much more. My great grandmother made a living as a seamstress in Germany, and through our little business, we are carrying on a legacy of designing and sewing clothing.
What inspired you to start your own business and how did you start it?
oma+jo got started right around the time my sister got pregnant. Monika and I were shopping around for baby clothes locally and we were frustrated with what was out there. We were looking for classic style clothing and just couldn't find it. There are not a lot of options in Alaska for children's clothing. Although there are so many fantastic boutiques for adult clothing, at the time we came up with oma+jo, there wasn't a single baby boutique. We got to brainstorming and we decided we just had to launch a brand that epitomized classic children's apparel.
Is there a specific tool you use that makes managing a business easier?
I must admit, we keep it old school, lots of lists on lined paper and post-its.
What Were some of the learning curves of just starting out?
Starting oma+jo was quite the learning process! We learned how much work goes into each collection, and how much preparation is really involved. We started the first season with patterns that were already created - and as we release each new collection we found out how much work goes into designing and implementing each new piece! Every collection provides us with a series of new lessons, but that is part of what makes this so fun!
What's it like being a business owner and mom, how do you schedule both?
Joleen : I am not a mom yet, but look forward to it in the future. However, my mom can speak on that matter. She was an artist and business owner from the time my sister and I were very young.
Monika: It can be challenging at times, but having the flexibility to be there for my girls made it all worth it.
What has been your greatest lesson in business?
Owning your own business is challenging and it takes a lot of time and energy. Being self-employed takes discipline and often times means you work early in the morning, late into the evening, during the weekends, and are available to respond to the business at all times. At times this can be challenging, but it is so gratifying to learn and grow with a business, really making it something meaningful.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Stick to your gut and have pride in your work! It is your excitement and enthusiasm for what you do that makes others want to be a part of it! Stay positive and work hard. Start small and try testing your products at local markets for input and feedback - and with time you will grow!
What does a “normal” day look like for you?
A day in the live of Jo goes a little something like this: Wake up early, sip coffee while getting up to date on social media accounts, planning, etc for oma+jo. Work a little bit from home or in the lab on my current microbiology project. Around 11AM I head to Monika's where the sewing and production occurs. Then it's off to yoga or a run and home to make dinner and check back in with social media.
Besides running your business do you have any hobbies you love to enjoy?
I absolutely love getting outdoors. Living in Alaska, there is a wealth of adventure to be had and I am happiest when I find the time to get out and explore the mountains and forests. I also practice yoga on the daily, which keeps me grounded when things get stressful.
I’m a huge coffee lover, and I'm always looking for new types, do you have a particular favorite? *
I can't live without coffee! It's what gets me up in the morning. I wake up to locally roasted Steam Dot coffee with a splash of whole milk every morning. It is my absolute favorite!
Who has been an inspiration to you in your life and why?
My mother has always been my greatest inspiration! The unending amount of love she has for her family and her continued support in all that I do is more than I could ever ask for. I hope that I can be such a strong and loving mother someday!
If you could travel anywhere or do anything in the world what would that be?
If I could do anything in the world, I would keep doing what I am doing! I have amazing friends, family, and I get to spend my day being creative and connecting with amazing mamas like you. I find small adventures every day, and sometimes I get out and find bigger adventures, reveling in the beauty Alaska has to offer.
If your children learn one thing from you what would you wish that to be?
If my future babies could learn one thing from me, it would be to embrace who they are and love life! I only hope if I have kids they will grow up to be happy with who they are and can find joy in everything they do.
Any other comments or advice you would like to share?
All parts of life - business, family, and just being yourself - can be a challenge. But if we can stay positive, work hard, and choose happiness then it is ALL worth it!
Thank you, Joleen, for giving us a little glimpse of Oma + Jo! Head over to their site for some great fall gear!